For Burnaby, one door closed and another one opened.
The city had the chance to build the Olympic speed skating oval atop Burnaby Mountain, but organizers of the 2010 Winter Games found a better deal in Richmond on the site of an old trailer park by the Fraser River.
Instead, Burnaby ended up with Canada’s most-advanced, full-service, high-performance sports training centre.
Nestled among venues straddling Kensington Avenue– Canlan Ice Sports Burnaby 8 Rinks, Bill Copeland Sports Centre and Burnaby Lake Sports Complex fields – Fortius Sport and Health opened its doors almost three-and-a-half years ago.
The $61 million privately owned, not-for-profit facility on former City of Burnaby land was the vision of Scott Cousens. The Hunter Dickinson mining executive put up $23 million for the Fortius Foundation, a record donation for a sports facility in Canada.
Construction began in 2008, just in time for the global credit crunch. Activity was mothballed until the site came alive two years later and had a soft-launch in May 2013. Originally known as the MultiSport Centre of Excellence, it was rebranded Fortius, for the third element of the Olympic movement motto – “citius, altius, fortius” (faster, higher, stronger).
Stars like Steve Nash and Trevor Linden offered advice for the facility, which offers a hat trick of sport medicine, science and training facilities and services. CEO Craig Thompson likes to say it’s for athletes of any age or any stage. While financials are closely held, Thompson said it attracts 6,000 users a month.
Fortius hosted the Toronto Raptors for the third straight year in September, as the National Basketball Association team came west again for its training camp. Canada’s only NBA franchise and Fortius were introduced by Alex McKechnie, a renowned sports physiotherapist who sits on Fortius’s advisory board. McKechnie is also currently the Raptors’ assistant coach in charge of sports science.
Bobby Webster, the Raptors’ vice-president of basketball management and strategy, describes Fortius as a “state of the art” facility.
“It’s world class. We love going there and we look forward to going back there in the future,” Webster says.
The venue’s two full courts and elite-level training and are what first attracted them and keeps them coming back.
“It’s clear that it’s one of, if not the best, private facility in Canada to hold our training camp at,” he says.
Earlier this year, Canada’s national women’s soccer team made its final preparations at Fortius before heading to the Rio 2016 Olympics, where it repeated as the bronze medal winner. The men’s Olympic field hockey team and Gavin Schmitt, a star with the men’s volleyball team, also made Fortius their pre-Games training hubs.